Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Preliminary Court Rulings Shape Ball State Retaliation Litigation

After Kathy Bull was terminated from her position as head coach of Ball State's women's tennis team (which we blogged about here), she filed a federal lawsuit contesting this decision as unlawful retaliation under Title IX and other laws. Last week, the federal judge in Indiana granted Ball State's motions to dismiss several of Bull's claims, resulting in a winnowing of Coach Bull's claims that could be headed for trial.

The court did not dismiss Bull's primary claim, that Ball State is institutionally liable under Title IX for firing her in retaliation for her advocacy for gender equity. But the judge did dismiss her claims against individual university officials, which she had filed both under Title IX as well as Section 1983, the statute that allows plaintiffs to seek judicial enforcement of constitutional violations. Title IX, of course, only provides for institutional, not individual liability. And while 1983 does allow a plaintiff to enforce constitutional claims against individuals who are state officials, it does not allow plaintiffs to sue individuals for money damages, as Coach Bull's complaint had apparently been framed. Further applying these protections for state officials -- known as sovereign immunity --the court dismissed individual claims against the members of the Board of Trustees, as well as state law claims against Ball State officials and trustees.

Decision is: Bull v. Bd. of Trustees of Ball State Univ., 2011 WL 6740549 (S.D. Ind. Dec. 22, 2011)